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Ancestors and Children of the Lord Rhys

                                THE ERA OF LLEWELYN AP SEISYLL
                                           By Darrell Wolcott
         At his death in 1023, Llewelyn ap Seisyll held the kingships of Powys, Gwynedd and Deheubarth.  The question "who was he?" has pretty much drawn a blank from historians.  His entitlement to ANY kingship has been assigned to (a) his maternal descent from the clan of Rhodri Mawr and (b) his marriage to the heiress of Deheubarth.  And his success in enforcing these non-paternal claims has been attributed to his battlefield prowess.  We have previously suggested [1] that he was first of all the legitimate heir to Powys and only lodged claims to Gwynedd and Deheubarth at a time when neither kingdom had a male heir old enough for kingship. 
         Most of the tales written about him in the "traditional" history of Wales (as opposed to "scholarly" histories of the 20th century) are based upon a version of the Brut Tywysogyon, often called the Gwentian Brut, published by Iolo Morgannwg.  Wildly anachronistic, that manuscript was a forgery by Iolo in which he incorporated elements of the authentic chronicles and added much of his own unsourced and often ludicrous version of history.  He makes Llewelyn ap Seisyll the Lord of Maes Essyllt in Gwent and gives him otherwise unknown brothers named Hywel and Robert. [2]
         An oral tradition [3] which has long circulated in Harwarden, the district between Yr Hob and Chester, claims Seisyll was governor of Harwarden Castle "in the 6th year of the reign of Cynan ap Elis ap Anarawd".  He and his wife Lady Prawst were only bit players in a tale where a stone statue of the Virgin Mary holding a large cross fell from its mounting on the local church and struck and killed Prawst as she knelt praying for rain to relieve a long drought.  Most of the tale was about that "holy rood" which was tried and convicted of her murder.
         Unlike Iolo's forgery, this tale at least puts Seisyll in North Wales but contains other fatal flaws.  While there may have been an ancient hill-fort in Harwarden in Seisyll's lifetime, no castle was erected there until the Normans built one over 100 years later.  And no "Cynan ap Elis" ever ruled in North Wales.  There is a recorded obit for a "Cyngen ap Elisedd" in 945 but if he was "ap Anarawd" then he was a nephew of Idwal Foel who ruled Gwynedd from 916-942; in the very unlikely event that nephew obtained the kingship over the fully-grown sons of Idwal Foel, there could not have been any 6th year of his reign since he died 3 years after Idwal.  Additionally, Harwarden was, in Seisyll's lifetime, a part of Powys. 
          Credible reports of events concerning Llewelyn ap Seisyll are woefully few in number.  His first appearance in the credible versions of the Brut was in 1018 when he killed Aeddan ap Blegoryd and his 4 sons.  Aeddan is not further identified and no location for the battle is given.  Iolo's forged Brut makes Aeddan an intrusive king of Gwynedd and historian John Lloyd appears to partially accept that identification. While discussing various men who were not paternal descendants of Rhodri Mawr but seized royal authority in Gwynedd and Deheubarth, Lloyd writes "Such a successful pretender was Aeddan ap Blegywryd, who after a reign of uncertain length, was killed with his four sons by Llewelyn ap Seisyll in 1018". [4] He did not say whether he believed Aeddan had seized power in Gwynedd or Deheubarth and he offered no source at all for his statement.
           The only other event we know about in the life of Llewelyn ap Seisyll was in 1022 when, after the death of Deheubarth king Edwin ap Einion while his sons were too young to succeed him, a man called Rhain came from Ireland claiming to be a son of former king Maredudd ap Owain.  The leading men of Deheubarth accepted Rhain as their king but Llewelyn ap Seisyll brought his army to Abergili and rather easily defeated Rhain's men.  Rhain himself fled the battlefield and was never seen again.
           In our earlier paper, we suggested that Seisyll had been a younger brother of Powys king Cadell ap Brochwel.  Cadell was born c. 940, became king about 975 and likely died about 1010 although no obituary is extant.  He had a single child, a daughter Nest, who married a Powys baron, Gwerystan ap Gwaithfoed. [6] As the king grew old without a son, the men of Powys appear to have accepted his oldest nephew [7] as the edling or heir-apparent.  If Cadell gave up on ever having his own heir around age 55 (thus c. 995), Llewelyn would have been about 16 years old.  His mother is cited as Prawst ferch Elisedd ap Anarawd of Gwynedd [8], but we believe she was a more age-appropriate lady: Prawst ferch Elisedd ap Idwal Foel.  Elisedd ap Anarawd was slain in 942 [9] and we place the birth of Prawst after 960. Her eldest son, Llewelyn, was born c. 979
          When Maredudd ap Owain of Deheubarth died in 999, we believe his widow, together with a young daughter, fled to Powys where she was received by her sister, Lady Prawst.  The new king of Deheubarth, Edwin ap Einion, was clearly hostile to Maredudd and may have even been complicit in his death.  That he might have been intent on eliminating competition from the house of Maredudd can be inferred by Maredudd's base son, Rhain, fleeing to Ireland.  It logically follows that Maredudd's widow removed his daughter from harms way by fleeing to a sister who was the mother of the Powys royal edling.
         That daughter of Maredudd was Angharad, probably not more than 6 years old in 999.  Thus, when Powys king Cadell finally died about 1010 and Llewelyn ap Seisyll was coronated the new king, the young Angharad was a natural choice for his bride.  Her royal bloodline was impeccable and he had watched her grow into a young woman in his father's home.  Their only known child, Gruffudd, was born c. 1011.
          Since Llewelyn was maternally related to the Gwynedd Royal Family, we turn to events in that neighboring kingdom.  Members of that family, in the person of Idwal and Elisedd sons of Meurig ap Idwal Foel, had, in 994, taken back the kingship by chasing Maredudd ap Owain back to his Deheubarth lands.  Subsequently, a new generation of Idwal Foel's descendants came of age.  Cynan ap Hywel ap Ieuaf ap Idwal Foel, whose father had ruled Gwynedd from 980 to 985, killed his older kinsman, Idwal ap Meurig, in 996.  But that man's nephew, Idwal ap Elisedd ap Meurig took Gwynedd in 1003 by killing Cynan ap Hywel. [10]
         This brings us to the mysterious Aeddan ap Blegoryd.  We would identify him as a contender for Gwynedd, not Deheubarth.  We think his father was a Strathclyde man who had been blinded as a boy. and was brought to Wales by his grandfather. [11] His claim to Gwynedd, we suspect, was via his mother.  She is nowhere cited, but if she had been a sister of Hywel ap Ieuaf ap Idwal Foel, then Aeddan would be a first-cousin of Cynan ap Hywel.  His act to avenge the death of that man would restore the kingship to the lineage of Ieuaf ap Idwal Foel, which had since 985 been contested by the cousin line descended from Meurig ap Idwal Foel.
          With the death of Idwal ap Elisedd at the hands of Aeddan about 1017 [12], the only paternal decendants of Idwal Foel who remained alive were his two young sons.  Iago ap Idwal ap Elisedd was about 12 years old and his brother Cynan was about 3.  Aeddan may have killed Idwal as early as 1014, but we doubt Llewelyn ap Seisyll would have waited long to act.  His claim to Gwynedd was fully the equal to Aeddan's claim and he was already a king,  It may have been that Aeddan was wildly disliked by the men of Gwynedd, and they pursuaded Llewelyn to lay his own claim.  He did in 1018, and Gwynedd remained out of the hands of its Royal Family until young Iago ap Idwal came of full age in 1033.
          Turning now to events in Deheubarth, where Llewelyn had some vestage of a claim to kingship via his wife, we pick up with the period following Maredudd's death in 999.  Edwin ap Einion became the new king but he died about 1022, leaving both sons and a nephew, all still teenagers.  This would have been the opportune time for Llewelyn to make his claim for the Deheubarth kingship, but on the scene came the man from Ireland.  If we believe what this man said (Rhain), then he had the best claim to Deheubarth as a son of Maredudd.  The leading men did believe him and accepted him as their new king.  But Llewelyn was having none of it; perhaps his mother-in-law assured him that Rhain was no son of hers, so he took his army south and challenged the "Irish pretender".  With the rout of the south Wales men defending Rhain, and the latter's rapid retreat both from the battlefield and from history, Llewelyn captured the kingship of Deheubarth in 1022.  Irrespective of the claim of later historians, he was the first Welsh king to rule over the three major kingdoms of Powys, Gwynedd and Deheubarth. [13] His rule was short-lived; he "died" in 1023.
          Others have speculated that Llewelyn may have been killed by members of the royal families of either Gwynedd or Deheubarth. [14] All paternal claimants of those kingdoms in 1023 were far too young to become king; if they had a hand in Llewelyn's demise, it would be years before they could benefit.  We guessed earlier that the barons (not the royal family) of Deheubarth may have retaliated against Llewelyn for depriving them of Rhain, the king they wanted.
           Llewelyn's obit in the Brut says that after his death, Rhydderch ap Iestyn held the kingdom of the South.  That man was from Penfro, Dyfed and probably a first-cousin of Edwin ap Einion. [15]  Now, with the sons (Maredudd and Hywel) of deceased king Edwin ap Einion still youngsters, Rhydderch was chosen king of Deheubarth.   Edwin had a brother, Cadell, whose date of death is not known, but if still alive he had been passed over for kingship in 1022 when Rhain made his claim. Perhaps Cadell was dead, leaving Rhydderch the only adult male with close ties to the royal family. It was the Irish who were credited for killing him in 1033, but he may have been ousted from Deheubarth by the sons of Edwin ap Einion.
          We are not told who came to the thrones of either Powys or Gwynedd after the death of Llewelyn.  His only son was perhaps 12 years old so the men of Powys had to choose someone to rule until he came of age.  Llewelyn's cousins, descended from his father's brother Selyf II ap Brochwel II, were barely teens. [16] We believe two candidates for "interim" king were considered by the men of Powys.  One was Cynan ap Seisyll, Llewelyn's younger brother.  The other was Cynfyn ap Gwerystan, whose mother was Nest, only child of former king Cadell ap Brochwel.  Although Cynan was a male nephew of Cadell and probably had the best claim, he was a married man.  Cynfyn, on the other hand, was recently widowed.  The men of Powys were swayed by the agreement of Cynfyn to marry Llewelyn's widow and thus become the step-father of young Gruffudd, the true heir.  With those credentials, we think the men of Gwynedd also accepted Cynfyn to rule during the minority of their heir, Iago ap Idwal.
          Cynan ap Seisyll may have been promised support to contend for the kingship of Deheubarth, although we know of no direct claim he could make. It is possible that his wife was a daughter of Edwin ap Einion, but no citations identify her.  Cynan was killed in 1027 and while his obit does not say who was responsible, some think it was the Deheubarth sons of Edwin.  That guess is bolstered by subsequent events; in 1035, the sons of Cynan killed Maredudd ap Edwin.  Thus it does appear that Cynan involved himself in the quest for Deheubarth after the sons of Edwin ousted Rhydderch ap Iestyn. 
           During his reign as king of three territories, we suspect Llewelyn ap Seisyll thought it would be a bit demeaning to two of those kingdoms if he took up residence at the existing royal manor of any of them.  While he likely used the palaces at Mathrafel, Aberffraw and Dinefwr for his visitations and for ceremonies directly related to Powys, Gwynedd or Deheubarth, he made his seat and permanent residence at Rhuddlan in Tegeingl. 
          In the Appendices below, we recap the kingly succession from 940-1040 in all 3 of Llewelyn's kingdoms. 
[1]  See the paper "End of the Powys Dynasty" at the link below:
[2] "Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales", 1870, pp 693-695
[3]  Archaeologia Cambrensis, 1873, pp 61-63
[4] "History of Wales", 2nd edition, 1912, vol I, pp 346-347
[5]  op cit Note 1
[6]  Dwnn i, 310, 319, 326; Dwnn ii, 54, 249
[7]  The eldest son of Cadell's oldest brother
[8]  ABT 7f
[9]  The ByT entry actually says the men slain in 942 were Idwal ap Rhodri and his brother Elisedd.  Most authorities believe the brothers were sons of Anarawd ap Rhodri since, if not, the Brut wholly fails to record the obit of Idwal Foel
[10] The killer of Cynan ap Hywel is not identified, but the only other eligible claimant to Gwynedd, who descended via male lineage from Idwal Foel, was Idwal ap Elisedd, father of Iago
[11] For the suggested ancestry of Aeddan ap Blegoryd, see our paper "Refugees From Strathclyde Come to Gwynedd" at the link below:
[12] This event is not recorded, but if Aeddan did take the Gwynedd kingship, whoever had held it must have died or been killed.  The year this occurred is simply our guess but we think Idwal ap Elisedd was alive as late as 1014 when we think his son Cynan was born. 
[13] Rhodri Mawr ruled only Gwynedd, but had formed a military alliance with the kings of neighboring lands to combat Saxon invasions.  Hywel Dda and Maredudd ap Owain had briefly ruled both Deheubarth and Gwynedd, but neither ever attempted or succeeded in taking Powys. 
[14] Dr David Powel, in his "History of Wales" says that Llewelyn ap Seisyll was killed by Hywel and Maredudd ap Edwin ap Einion of Deheubarth, but no ancient source confirms that statement.  We reject it on the grounds that these sons of Edwin were, in 1023, not yet old enough to become kings.  We think those men did kill Cynan ap Seisyll in 1027.
[15] Refer to the paper "Two Families Headed by a Rhydderch ap Iestyn" at the link below  The other Rhydderch was a man of Gwent:
[16] Brochwel III ap Aeddan III ap Selyf II was born c. 1005, while Gruffudd II ap Beli II ap Selyf II was born c. 1015

APPENDIX I - Kings of Deheubarth
920-949      Hywel Dda
949-988      Owain ap Hywel Dda
975-984  Einion ap Owain was acting king until killed by the men of Gwent
984-988  Maredudd ap Owain was acting king until Owain died
988-999      Maredudd ap Owain
999-1022     Edwin ap Einion ap Owain
1022-1022   Rhain, base son of Maredudd ap Owain
1022-1023   Llewelyn ap Seisyll, husband of Angharad ferch Maredudd
1023-1033   Rhydderch ap Iestyn of Dyfed
1033-1035   Maredudd and Hywel, sons of Edwin ap Einion ap Owain
1035-1044   Hywel ap Edwin, after brother was killed
                  NOTE:  Rhydderch ap Iestyn was killed by the Irish in 1033, but the sons of Edwin ap Einion may have become of full age to claim their kingship as early as 1031.  It is not know in what year they did take rule, only that it was by or before 1033.  Cynan ap Seisyll of Powys probably challenged for rule in 1027 and was killed by the sons of Edwin; the sons of Cynan retaliated in 1035 by killing Maredudd ap Edwin but did not wrest Hywel ap Edwin from his kingship
APPENDIX II - Kings of Gwynedd
916-942       Idwal Foel ap Anarawd ap Rhodri Mawr
942-949       Hywel Dda, even though Idwal Foel had adult sons
949-969       Iago and Ieuaf, sons of Idwal Foel
969-974       Iago ap Idwal Foel, who seized and imprisoned his brother Ieuaf
974-985       Hywel ap Ieuaf, who expelled Iago from Gwynedd
980  Custinnen ap Iago contested Hywel and was slain 980  Owain ap Iago did not lodge a claim and nothing more is known of him
985-986       Hywel ap Ieuaf was killed battling Saxons and succeeded by his brother, Cadwallon
986-994       Maredudd ap Owain of Deheubarth killed Cadwallon ap Ieuaf; Cadwallon's brother Meig was also slain in 986
994-996       Brothers Idwal and Elisedd, sons of Meurig ap Idwal Foel, forced Maredudd to retreat to Deheubarth
996-1000     Elisedd ap Meurig, after his brother Idwal was killed
1000-1003    Cynan ap Hywel ap Ieuaf, probably by killing Elisedd
1003-1017    Idwal ap Elisedd, by killing Cynan ap Hywel
1017-1018    Aeddan ap Blegywryd of Dyfed, probably maternal grandson of Ieuaf ap Idwal Foel, by killing Idwal ap Elisedd
1018-1023    Llewelyn ap Seisyll, by killing Aeddan and his 4 sons
1023-1033    Cynfyn ap Gwerystan of Powys, during the minority of true heir, Iago ap Idwal ap Elisedd
1033-1039    Iago ap Idwal
1039-1063    Gruffudd ap Llewelyn, by killing Iago and forcing his younger brother, Cynan, to seek shelter in Ireland
         NOTE: It may have been Aeddan ap Blegywryd who killed Cynan ap Hywel in 1003, but Idwal ap Elisedd was still alive c. 1014.  Most would claim that Iago ap Idwal ruled Gwynedd from 1023-1039, but we think he only became old enough for kingship in 1033, the earliest date he is reported to be ruling Gwynedd. It was a 25 year old Cynan ap Idwal who escaped to Ireland in 1039, not the 4 year old Cynan ap Iago 
APPENDIX III - Kings of Powys
915-945      Aeddan II ap Selyf I
945-975      Brochwel II ap Aeddan II, son
975-1010    Cadell ap Brochwel II, son
1010-1023   Llewelyn ap Seisyll, nephew of Cadell who had no son
1023-1039   Cynfyn ap Gwerystan, maternal grandson of Cadell, chosen as interim king during minority of step-son Gruffudd ap Llewelyn
1039-1063   Gruffudd ap Llewelyn, true heir came of full age in 1039
          NOTE: Except for the period of Gruffudd's minority, all Powys kings were the legally designated heirs; obit dates for kings before Llewelyn ap Seisyll are not recorded, our dates are estimates